Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Kisses For Me, Save All Your Kisses For Me

It felt a bit like a school prize-giving ceremony, except that many of the prize-winners failed to turn up. This was the press launch for Puerto Alcúdia's annual cuttlefish feast of a fiesta, at which representatives of some of the restaurants taking part were in attendance in order to collect their tin cuttlefish: or maybe they weren't made of tin, just that they seemed to ping a bit.

On the old pier in the port is a building which is that of the brotherhood of fishermen, a collective, the mention of which, in certain quarters, inspires, if that's the right word, a musical outburst of a Eurovision nature. I've no idea why. It was here that the launch took place, and also lunch. There was a lot of cuttlefish (sepia) in different styles. The chap from the Pane y Vino restaurant seemed to be the one who had been handed responsibility for overseeing it all.

It wouldn't of course be an official Alcúdia event if the mayor wasn't dragged along. Poor chap seemed to be suffering a bit of a cold. Normally, you don't have flash and TV cameras pointing at you when it comes to that awful how do I cope with the result of my chesty cough moment. There can be few worse things; realising your flies are open being one of them. And no, they weren't.

The government, the Balearic one that is, had sent its own emissary, in the form of the minister for agriculture and fisheries. There was a lot of stuff about quality. She went on a bit. The audience, none of them seated, were beginning to shuffle their feet and take a greater interest in the photos on the wall. Actually, some of the photos are fascinating as they show the history of the port area and will be an exhibition at this weekend's boat fair, which coincides with the cuttlefish do. I recommend you go and have a look.

The audience, though, may have been getting agitated as they were anticipating receiving their tin cuttlefish. What a fine souvenir for the participating restaurants. A flat brown thing shaped like a cuttlefish, well sort of, if you can imagine a cuttlefish having been squashed, but looking more like a painter might hold it in one hand. There were words about the fair of 2009 scratched onto it. I'm not sure what the restaurants are meant to do with them. That's probably why so few of them had bothered to turn up to collect them. That's where the prize-giving came in. Caty, who runs fairs and markets, for the town hall, and who some of you may recognise as also running the flower shop-cum-supermarket next to Little Britain, read out a list of restaurants and cafés. It was as though she was going through the register. The names of the naughty ones who had nicked off were duly noted; well by me at any rate. Bodega d'es Port, Jardín, La Traviata, Nova Marina, Piero Rossi and many more. None of them had turned up. Was it a coincidence that those who had were probably all less well known? Or perhaps they just hadn't got a tin cuttlefish.

Being a prize-giving here, there was a whole load of kissing going on when the restaurants' representatives walked forward to claim their painter's palette. Caty, the minister, the chap from the brotherhood of fishermen, the mayor; all had to be kissed, both cheeks. Clearly, no-one else had noticed the mayor's earlier phlegmatic dilemma.

The sepia and boat fairs take place in Puerto Alcúdia on 4 and 5 April. See the WHAT'S ON BLOG (http://www.wotzupnorth.blogspot.com) for information.

Yesterday's title - Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gskAeWgEExk). Today's title - I'm going to put the video up tomorrow, unless you pay me a lot a money.


Index for March 2009

Advertising - 14 March 2009
Albufereta - 9 March 2009
Balearic Government - 19 March 2009
Beach towels - 5 March 2009
Boat and sepia fairs, Puerto Alcúdia - 5 March 2009, 27 March 2009, 31 March 2009
Café Bony - 6 March 2008
Can Ramis building collapse - 11 March 2009, 12 March 2009
Catalan and promotion - 24 March 2009
Copyright - 29 March 2009
Corruption - 23 March 2009
Cyclists - 22 March 2009, 24 March 2009
Driving test - 7 March 2009
E. coli - 9 March 2009
Economic crisis - 14 March 2009
Eroski - 24 March 2009
Expatriates - 19 March 2009, 30 March 2009
Fairline - 13 March 2009
Fira Nàutica Mostra Sípia 2009, 27 March 2009, 31 March 2009
Google maps - 18 March 2009
History, Alcúdia - 3 March 2009
Holes - 18 March 2009
Holiday lets - 9 March 2009, 10 March 2009
Homelessness - 8 March 2009
Hunters' fair, Pollensa - 1 March 2009, 9 March 2009
Inca - 7 March 2009
Jeremy Clarkson - 30 March 2009
JK's Bar - 6 March 2009
Landscapes - 17 March 2009
Lucky-lucky men - 2 March 2009
Mike Oldfield - 28 March 2009
Names - 13 March 2009
Pirated goods - 2 March 2009
Publishing - 25 March 2009
Puerto Pollensa building work - 1 March 2009, 21 March 2009
Puerto Pollensa market square - 20 March 2009
Puerto Pollensa swimming pool - 1 March 2009
Roundabouts - 11 March 2009, 12 March 2009, 20 March 2009, 21 March 2009
Sa Pobla-to-Alcúdia railway - 2 March 2009, 5 March 2009, 13 March 2009, 15 March 2009
Sandwich and Moments - 13 March 2009
Scandal - 19 March 2009
Selling in bars - 29 March 2009
Sleeplessness - 26 March 2009
Supermarkets - 24 March 2009
Tourism promotion- 16 March 2009
Tourism spend - 1 March 2009
Tourist offices - 23 March 2009
Vora Mar Restaurant, Cala San Vicente - 28 March 2009
Water - 4 March 2009

Monday, March 30, 2009


There are times when I feel smugly vindicated. I could have told you so, and occasionally I have told you so. Take Jeremy Clarkson. 5 February: Murder On The Dancefloor - this is what I said:

"It will be thronged with expats desperate to try and ingratiate themselves with the Top Gear trio. I would advise caution. Clarkson's vitriol would doubtless extend to mostly all expats. If I were you, I'd avoid the Top Gear-ists like the plague. Not that I don't like Clarkson; quite the opposite. And anyone who has seen fit to punch Piers Morgan is fine by me. One trusts that the programme will show some suitably pleasant landscapes and be a rather more positive representation of Mallorca than some Chardonnay who has vomited over a nurse in Muro hospital A&E. (But) if you think Clarkson might go easy on the local expattery, do be warned: remember he once said that anyone who had moved to Spain had held up a post office."

Good old Jezza. Along with May and Hammond, he managed to pack out the race track at the end of the Classic Car Rally gig. Word has it that the stands were thronged, not with classic-car-adoring Mallorcans but with self-regarding and needing-to-be-seen expats - British ones at that. There were doubtless a few like Ben who were there for a love of cars, things that make them work and getting grease and oil all over themselves. For the most part though, it was those who were notching up another event on the social calendar, those wanting a chance to show off the latest Rolex or Jimmy Choo's, those who are just plain mad, and also the chancers sniffing a business opportunity or just some hoped-for, aspiring-to stardust being sprinkled by being in the proximity of the famous. Poor bloody saps that they are. They should choose their celebs wisely - if at all. Clarkson was always going to be dangerous to know. I warned you, but you didn't listen, did you? Never under-estimate, though, the lather of excitement and vacuous expectation that can be whipped up by the froth of even minor celebrity in the air-filled heads of many expatriates.

There is a stratum of society which, when the merest whiff of a celeb comes wafting through the ether, loses all sense of propriety and seeks to prostrate and prostitute itself at the feet of whatever celeb it happens to be. I once took a flight from Heathrow to Leeds-Bradford. Next to me on the plane happened to be Mark James, the one-time Ryder Cup golfer and indeed captain. I knew James lived locally to the airport. His being on the flight was not, in itself, that unusual. He spent the journey reading a golfing magazine and turning down any refreshment. Thinking that he would probably rather not wish to speak to anyone, least of all myself, I didn't say a word to him other than to say "good evening" when I sat down. When it came to the time for everyone to disembark, there was an unholy scrum involving several passengers from the rear of the plane pushing their way past others, clutching business cards and calling out: "Mark", "Mark". They all thought they had found their new best friend. He was at least polite in telling them to get lost. Jeremy Clarkson on the other hand ...

You see, the problem is that not every celeb is actually a journo and a very funny one who has scant regard for whom he offends and who also writes for "The Sunday Times" the week after he has been in Mallorca. Jeremy Clarkson is and does, and you really should have banked on him having a go. Just be grateful if you are not an expatriate, because if you are, wherever you may be (with the exception of the USA), you are damned - by Clarkson - and a failure. It's no good you or indeed I saying that Clarkson's message does not apply. It does. You, you, you and you, all of you, you expats, you're all failures. That's his message. Thought he was coming to Mallorca to do some wonderful PR work? No he was not. The naïvite but also the superficiality of the expat community here beggars belief. The Top Gear presence was little more than an excuse for showing off on a grand scale. And why was the British Consul at the rally? What had it got to do with him? It was because it became an expats' function, which makes one ask who the rally is in fact for. My understanding is that Mallorcans stayed away from the race track and observed the rally only along the route and in the villages.

It may yet prove that, when the rally footage is broadcast, Mallorca is shown in a good light. But there must be a fear that Clarkson or one of the others will have a pop at the place and at the people, because that is what Clarkson has most certainly already done. I should feel offended, but I am not. Partly, that's because I knew it was coming and partly because, well, he isn't wrong.

'I was in Majorca last weekend, which is jammed full of British expats all of whom would begin their explanation of how they got there with the same thing: “Well, after I sold the cab . . .”
'There they were, in their chips and footie bars with their desperate eyes and their booze-ruined noses, regaling everyone with their stuck-record views on life back in Blighty.
' “Don’t know how you can live in Britain. Bloody weather. Bloody Muslims. Bloody Brown,” and then, after a wistful pause, “. . . you don’t have a copy of today’s Telegraph do you?” '

Like moths to a flame, the expats were mindlessly attracted by the prospect of celebrity, only to find that they were then burned by the very thing that attracted them. Burned, ripped to pieces, shown up, made fun of, whole lives questioned, shat on. To hell with Clarkson, you might say. But I won't and can't, because I agree with him. Oh, and he's also very funny. Read the whole thing for yourselves. And if you don't read, I suspect you don't want to know the reality. Excellent stuff:


Yesterday's title - The KLF once again (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HwtSdJaPCSI). Today's title - Jeremy? Truly brilliant song that came out of the grunge, some say it wasn't grunge, movement. Unquestionably, like Mark Hollis (Talk Talk), one of the most distinctive of vocalists. Who?


Sunday, March 29, 2009

It's Grim Up North

"This is Radio Frio. AlcudiaPollensa.Blogspot.com, also known as It's Grim Up North.com, further known as the Unjustified Invasions of Kopyright.
"This is what APB is about, those photos and designs that are, how does one put it, borrowed."

I don't mind the fact that my time is spent, going out of my way, hanging about, taking photos, for which I am rarely expressly paid, as they (the photos) form part "of the service", and then maybe having to return because the weather is not right, the terrace has too few people, the sun is not shining. Actually, I do fucking mind. When, that is, I have to keep going back or someone has forgotten that I was coming. But normally I say nothing, because they're clients or friends or whatever, but the deal here is that people do not appreciate that elsewhere, in the UK for example, all that time and travel should be paid for. Typical for here. Let's try and avoid paying anything. Cheapskates. Should be a local place name. Like Blubberhouses or Loggerheads. That's Cheapskates, sorry Blubberhouses, near Harrogate and Loggerheads in Shropshire. It's grim up north.

It costs, this going to take photos and perhaps not being able to take them, and so does the design side. But you go along with it, until you find that someone has taken the piss. Either the photos or the whole design can appear somewhere - without my damn permission. How many discs of photos have I ever given out? Loads. I give them out, so they (clients) have a record not so they can be used, without permission, by those who have not had to go to the time and expense as I have. Intellectual property. Some don't even need discs originals; they just take what I have done, scan it or take their own photo and then reproduce it, in the process making it look really shit. Why don't they just ask? Does it never occur to them? Who gives a damn here? And I put these "courtesy of" notes onto designs, only to find they are not there when the final print version appears. What happens there, do you suppose? I know. It's taking the piss. We don't care that you have gone to time and trouble and actually done work that we either could not do ourselves or would not do, but from which we are quite prepared to extract a financial advantage.

You know something. I have a whole list of where these photos or designs have appeared, and whether permissions had been granted or not. And one of these days ... Just thought I'd let you know.

Meanwhile. Don't forget that Alcúdia now has by-laws which allow for the fining not only of street (and bar sellers) but also of those who buy from them. These laws have been designed mainly to stamp out the lucky-lucky men and their trade. We'll see, but it is noticeable that some bars have put up notices which say that selling is not permitted and that if it is done, it can result in a fine. 400 euros says the notice in The Smugglers. I think I might actually be 500, and that's just for the one who does the buying. So, think of this as the second warning of today's entry.

And returning to a theme of a few days ago - that of newspapers, internet and all that. This morning there were precisely no British newspapers at the nearest place selling papers, bar one paper, while at another there were no broadsheets. So I shall happily forego parting with five euros and look at the "Sunday Times" online. Maybe it's the grim rain, maybe the boys didn't get up because of the clocks changing, or maybe it's just because it's crap. A lot here actually is down to the fact that it is crap, whatever crap it is and whatever some might say. Anyway, sorry, Rupert, you ain't got my fiver today. And that one British newspaper that was available? Good old "Daily Bulletin", the J.R. Hartley of the newspaper world.

Yesterday's title - Vivian Stanshall. And here is something very fine indeed - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sSRJvq4Wd48. Today's title - of course.


Saturday, March 28, 2009

Plus ... Tubular Bells

It is reassuring, in these economic straitened times, that a restaurant, a not insubstantial one in terms of size and reputation, is reopened, especially when that restaurant happens to be in a resort suffering death by a thousand cuts (all-inclusives, Poles, cranes at the water's edge, forgetting to put the sunbeds out, an ever-shortening season), namely Cala San Vicente.

The Vora Mar restaurant had been closed since ... since when? 2004, 2005? Anyway, a few years. Despite its name, the Vora Mar is not one of the Cala's quaint on-top-of-the-sea eateries, like those tucked onto the steps leading down to the Cala Barques by Hotel Niu. The name does actually mean sea shore, but the restaurant stands atop and overlooks the resort as you come into it along the twisting, dry-stone-wall-lined road from the Puerto Pollensa-Pollensa main road.

For many years at L'Aup, the place on the corner of that road as it leaves the main road, Jose quit the finca and size of L'Aup to work in the kitchen at the Cala San Vicente hotel, but now he has returned in order to re-open the Vora Mar. As often with Jose, he has things to show you; things that you have maybe seen before and others may be not. I confess that I don't remember the contribution to "glasnost", but there it is - there they are - Gorbachev's signature from L'Aup days. Apparently, the former Soviet president used to divide his eating loyalties between L'Aup and La Terraza in Alcanada.

I have been asked to do the sunny terrace-with-people photos at Vora Mar, the type of photos that can be virtually unattainable at this time of the year. I'm due to cut along tomorrow, but rain is forecast, so the photos may have to wait, and therefore any examples of them to be shown on the blog will also have to wait.

I don't know if he ever ate at L'Aup or indeed the Vora Mar, but Mike Oldfield is unlikely to be eating at either in the near future. He has left the island. Not that you would know it. Of course not. Only a whole page devoted to the gaff he now wants to get shot of. The strange thing is that, protestations that he will miss the island notwithstanding, I have this recollection that not so long ago he was saying how wonderful it was here and that this was his home, and all that. Or maybe it was someone completely different. In the world of celebs I'm afraid I pay little attention, except when their entries in Wikipedia are used as newspaper copy. "Plus, Tubular Balls."

Yesterday's title - Simon Dupree and The Big Sound (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EUHTLQ8UnnM). Today's title - who narrated Tubular Bells?


Friday, March 27, 2009

We Are The Moles

Town and port. "Poble" and "moll". The "frontier" between Alcúdia town and port is the cemetery road that leads down to the horse roundabout. Those who live and work down in the port area are the "moll" people*. The distance between Alcúdia's port and town may be negligible compared to that which exists between the towns and ports (pobles and molls) of its close neighbours - Pollensa, Muro, Santa Margalida - but distance there still is and has been in terms of centres of power and the annual demonstrations of local pride, the fairs. So, deprived of their own fair and obliged to undertake the arduous journey to the old town, the "moll" people asked, why can't we have our own fair? They asked, and quite remarkably they got. Land and sea. Town and port. The mayor, the current incumbent, Miquel Ferrer, seemed to think it was a pretty good idea, and it was therefore decided that the October Alcúdia Fair in the old town would be reserved for crafts, for agriculture, for machines, for the land in other words; the new fair - that combining boats and one of the fruits of the local Mediterranean - would be for the sea.

This year sees the staging of the fourth annual joint nautical and cuttlefish fair. It was the fishermen of the port who helped to create the event, the nautical element of the October fair being spun out and joined with the sepia (or at least the cooking thereof) which, in March and April, is at its most abundant. The fishermen's calendar is determined by what proliferates in the local waters, and it was the sepia that won the rights to its own gig, together with the re-located boats.

Sepia, it has to be said, is not everyone's cup of tea or indeed plate of cod. And that would be because it isn't anything like cod. It is, of course, like squid. Indeed many will insist that it is squid. The Brits for example. Show them a photo of a cuttlefish and they'll say "calamari", which is not correct but which may not be completely inaccurate either, if that doesn't sound all rather Mallorquín. It all has to do with definitions, and the cuttlefish, which is not a fish in any event but a mollusc, falls into the same overall family as the squid. But to call a cuttlefish a calamari would be to risk that a cuttlefish might be riled enough to spray ink all over you. It is not calamari, as we know it. It is the thing that, in its dead and dried form, budgies peck at. So there. (Incidentally, on youtube, if you google, you can see a video of an "angry cuttlefish", which isn't particularly angry; in fact I don't think it's at all angry, but it's a quite good short vid.)

Anyway, you should know that on April 4 and 5, the boat and cuttlefish fairs will be taking place in Alcúdia, i.e. in Port d'Alcúdia, because this is an event of the "moll" people, not of the non-moll, aka the poble, further known as the "pueblo" people. And a jolly good event it always is, too. I shall doubtless be adding to the sum of knowledge regarding this whole shindig over the next few days, but I'm wondering if I should keep my powder dry, or my dead cuttlefish dry, as there is more fax 'n' info to be imparted (possibly) on Monday when members of the press, such of course as myself, are brought before the great and good of the town hall. But I will let you know about that.

* A point on pronunciation. "Moll" is like "moy", as in Chris Moyles, but without the "les" part. The "moll people", therefore, sounds a bit KLF-ish, which was the answer to yesterday's quiz (see below). Justified Ancients of Moy-Moy and all that.

Yesterday's title - The KLF (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LXEOESuiYcA). Today's title - not quite "molls", but this was by The Moles, who were a mystery band from the '60s, but who were they really?


Thursday, March 26, 2009

3am Eternal

What time is love? It's 3am and is the sound of breathing and the sound of nothing on the main road. On the carretera. What was the sound on that same carretera, do you suppose, the sound when that car went headlong into that cyclist? It was not far from here. Do you suppose he screamed? How would that work, do you think? Suddenly, a car comes straight at you. Do you have time to emit a sound? Why the hell am I thinking about that? Why am I thinking of it at 3am? Thinking how far away was it really? The report said Can Picafort, but also at position 24 kilometres. 24 kilometres on the carretera; that's Muro not Can Pic. Had it occurred at 3am, it would have been heard. It would have broken the breathing. Sit bolt upright out of sleep that had barely begun. Eyes staring.

3am. There's silence on that road. Open the shutter and the monster pine will be brooding, as it always broods in puffed and billowed silhouette against the thin orange of distant streets in Sa Pobla and Muro. Count the time between cars. A sheep jumping game. Was that it? Sheep jumping? Was that what was meant to send you to sleep? Why would that work? Ancients of moo-moo. Cows jumping. That would be altogether much more fun.

That silence continues though. And then the squeaking of the early-spring frogs and night birds. More a squawking that comes suddenly. The frog chorus has not started yet. Not in the way it really kicks in. Maybe a week or two to go yet. The massed terraces of frogs in Albufera, rubbing and chatting and scraping through the night, a crescendo that starts from nowhere and continues for hours - a ceremony of spring and mating, or whatever it is that drives frogs on, this screeching above the throb and pulse of the power station. Drum 'n' bass goes techno in a nature-manmade collision of night sound. But still yet, there is little - nothing - that drives on the road, on the carretera. Then, in the distance, what's that? And in no time, it rushes past. How fast was that? Where do you suppose the police go at 3am? Maybe that was the police. I'd always presumed there were armies of them at all the roundabouts. 3am.

3am eternal. Maybe half an hour passes between cars. Can't be that long surely. Is that the hoot of an owl? Are there owls? And so it's another sleeping pill. That'll do it. Eventually. Ever since I suffered that attack of semantics (3 January: A Good Heart These Days Is Hard To Find). And so, because it's 3am, again, and sleep seems as distant as a plane that might just be flying above were it allowed to be, there's another game. How to sleep. It's Grim Up North. That's where the game comes in. Repeat over and over the names of towns in the north. The north will rise again:

"Bolton, Barnsley, Nelson, Colne,
Burnley, Bradford, Buxton, Crewe,
Warrington, Widnes, Wigan, Leeds,
Northwich, Nantwich, Knutsford, Hull."

So it becomes:
"Alcúdia, Pollensa, Búger, Lluc,
Sa Pobla, Muro, Campanet, Vent,
Mal Pas, Siller, Singala, Pi,
Can Picafort, Barcares are all in the north."

You try to put out of your mind that it's 3am. Out of your mind the fear it is 3am eternal. No, no, that's not it. It's just a game. To try and sleep. And it's all been based around a chance email and mention of Grim Up North (thanks, Steve). It's a fine title. It should be used. Maybe it will be. But for now. For then. At 3am eternal, bring the beat back ...

Yesterday's title - Carly Simon (http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1cj0j_carly-simonnobody-does-it-better-li_music). Today's title - today has partly been a paean to one of the greatest: who were?


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Nobody Does It Better

The Germans do it better. There are many things that the Germans do better, much to the annoyance of the British. It is not a matter of annoyance but one of mystery - as far as I'm concerned - as to why the Germans, where Mallorca is concerned, are so much better at producing publications (in fact, even the Swedes seem to do it better as well). There may well be some German horrors lurking that I am unaware of, but they would be hard pressed to be worse than some of the things that the British can be held responsible for (or irresponsible, to once again use that Peter Cook line). There is one particular magazine that rarely is to be found in the north of the island. Just as well. It is unreadable. And no, I'm not naming names. That is not really why I have brought this subject up. I want to ask the question - why are the Germans that much better?

One might argue that the answer lies in a far bigger market, but that is not the case. The residential German market is, if memory serves, around 50% greater than the British, but we're not talking huge numbers of people - maybe 30-35,000. I stand to be corrected on this population stat. And by all means do say if I'm wrong, but that's my recollection. Even if this market were double or three times the size of the Brit sector, this still would not be enough to explain the fact that in terms of layout, editorial, advertising content and sheer sophistication, German publishing on the island is superior; indeed it is better than much of the Spanish.

That word - sophistication. That's a word that's bugging me. Or rather it is gnawing at me and telling me that this is where the difference lies. Can this be? Perhaps so. Is it that the Germans are more sophisticated? And by implication that the Brits are unsophisticated? Yet, I can well remember being told - by Germans - that Mallorca is the place where downmarket Germans go. That, of course, is completely wrong as a generalisation, as it would be were it to be applied to the British. There is no such thing as a homogeneous tourism market from either country; nor is there a one-size-fits-all residential market. And it is because of this very diversity of markets that it is, as I said on 19 March (I Can't Read You), so difficult to reconcile "competing demographics". Sophistication cannot be the explanation, except in the sense that the publications have tended to take a sort of top-down approach in pandering to a higher common denominator.

Whatever the reason, there is a wider issue and that has to do with the sustainability of publications for what are small markets, be they German or British. There is huge competition. "The Sun", to take an example, is now actually printed in Mallorca. The distribution and availability of publications is now no longer the hit-and-miss and two-to-three-days-later affair that used to be the case. And then there is the internet.

The combination of recession and online has hit regional publications particularly hard. National ones are not immune either. But it is at the local level that these "threats" should have always been especially keenly considered by publishers in their "SWOT" analyses. Mallorca is a local level. The expatriate markets within Mallorca are even more "local" if you like. You wonder how publications here can make sense - not in their hard-copy format at any rate. And in "free-to-air" digital format, they make even less sense, unless there were huge ad revenues - which there are not.

Publishers have created many of their own problems. Why are newspapers available for free on the internet? There will always be a role for the physical paper, so long as people - like me - prefer to have something in their hands rather than just looking at a screen. But for how much longer? Much as I prefer to handle a paper, I am very content to read content for nothing - and I do. The argument that free content would be supported by internet advertising revenue was always bollocks. It never stood up as an economic model, and doesn't. The recession has brought this home. The Germans may do it better, but they, and the British, are unlikely to do it at all, publish local titles, unless they can do it better on the internet. That is going to have to mean that people pay for content. And so they should. Trouble is, you've got hordes of Brits here going around nicking broadband access in order to fritter on frigging Facebook. They're not about to pay for stuff when they're engaged in not only free exchange but also theft. And even worse still, I'm on the point of joining them. Not the theft bit, but the Facebook. Where does it all end?

Oh, and apropos sophistication. Did you know that "The Sun" printed 300 thousand - 300,000!!! - more copies for their death-of-Jade special. I am most terribly sorry. She has died young, she has done good things for smears, but for pity's sake, three hundred thousand more ... . Words do, just for the moment, fail me.

Yesterday's title - Dr Dre, Eminem and Xzibit (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CaG6Kju0E-Q). Today's title - was her big hit about Jagger, Beatty, Taylor?


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

What's The Difference Between?

Two supermarkets, same company, three kilometres apart, same stretch of road, same town - different prices. How does that work, do you suppose?

Let me be more precise. Two Eroski stores, both on the Carretera Artà, the main coast road from Puerto Alcúdia, one store close to the port, the other close to Playa de Muro. Now, would you think the prices would be the same in the two stores? You might think it, but you would be wrong to do so, because they're not. Take, for example, the bakery-provided "pan integral cortado" (smaller pack). 65 centimos down the near-to-Playa de Muro end of the Eroski empire, 67 centimos near to the port. A bottle of bog-standard Rioja, the Siglo - 3.50 in one and 3.66 in the other. A pack of plain-flavour crisps (small family size), a difference of 6 centimos. I daresay that there are other price differentials. I'm not about to check the whole stock. Who or what do you think I am? Watchdog or something? How can it be, though, that two stores in the same chain so close to each other can have different prices? It could just be an aberration in the close-to-the-port store, i.e. a cock-up, though cocking-up more than one price sounds more like policy. In the Pollensa Eroski, the one close to the old town, the prices for the above items are as in the near-to-Playa de Muro one. So, all I can say is that, unless you have to use the one near to the port, I wouldn't bother, because it's cheaper to go to the one down the road. Now, I wonder what the prices are in the one near Hidropark and the one by the Can Picafort roundabout ... .

Shop theme today. Despite its name, Alcúdia Pins - both the area and the hotel - is not in Alcúdia; it is in Playa de Muro, very much in Playa de Muro, almost into Can Picafort very much in Playa de Muro. Alcúdia Pins is not really an area that people would go to, unless they were staying there. At least you wouldn't go there, if you were local and Mallorcan and wanting to go shopping. Not only are there not many shops, what shops there are can be avoided elsewhere. Alcúdia Pins is a hundred per cent tourist zone; it serves no other purpose.

While the eponymously named Alcúdia Pins hotel (or is it that the area is eponymously named?) is very strongly British, the tourist mix in the area is varied. Germans, Scandinavians, the new tourists of eastern Europe, Irish, mainland Spanish. There may well be the odd Catalan speaker knocking about, but not many. And what number there might possibly be would not be as great a number as the other nationalities, even the Irish. Why, therefore, is there a shop selling gifts and clothes with a sign in English and Catalan? Easy, you might say, because we are in Mallorca, and they speak Catalan. Well of course. But who is this shop's market? Tourists. Tourists from places that do not speak Catalan. If you were to choose a second language for that sign, then go for German. You could stick Gaelic up and it would probably be understood by more people.

Now I don't know that this is the case, but it is just possible that the sign is a beneficiary of the linguistic subvention. Which is? The system by which local authorities grant money for the use of Catalan for promotional purposes. And these promotional purposes include shop signs. It doesn't matter that there is no-one there to read it. In other words, they chuck money around in support of the language even when it serves no purpose. I could of course be wrong, and there is no subvention in this particular instance, but the principle behind it might just be deserving of some attention.

Ben's Classic Car Rally link
When this went up yesterday, there was a fault. It was fixed later, so if you tried yesterday and it didn't work, apologies. It's all correct now.

The Can Picafort cyclist accident
A 66-year-old cyclist from Luxembourg was killed in a head-on collision in Can Picafort at eight o'clock yesterday evening. Without wishing to pre-empt the thorough investigation, the report (from "The Diario") says that the cyclist was in the centre of the road and not wearing anything reflective - at eight o'clock it is dark.

Yesterday's title - The Stranglers (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cy9-epdDw9E). Today's title - you may have noticed I don't go with rap too often, but this was something really good - three willy-holders together.


Monday, March 23, 2009

Always The Sun

There is a story that you may have missed. It has to do with a town called La Muela in Aragon on the mainland. Though a story from "the peninsula", it could just as easily be of Mallorcan origin. And that is because it has to do with corruption in public life.

What makes La Muela particularly interesting is that it reveals that nothing in Spain, not even the sun and the wind, is immune to corrupt practices - allegedly - so long as there is a backhanded buck to be made. The story surrounds wind farms in La Muela and the boom in clean energy, which also includes solar "gardens", and the consequent boom in less-than-transparent behaviour and the acquisition of monies from questionable sources. All allegedly, it should be repeated.

As so often with these cases, a mayor is implicated: La Muela's in this instance. Other officials in other parts of Spain are under investigation in connection with certain suspicious activities, such as the trafficking of licences to provide solar gardens. In the wider sense, these are all environmentally sound manifestations of the malaise in the construction industry and among "notoriously corrupt real estate developers". These words come from a piece in "The Observer", as does the information for this blog item (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/mar/22/la-muela-renewables-spain-corruption).

Apart from demonstrating that Mother Nature is herself corruptible or an unwitting party to corruption, these cases show just how widespread inappropriate behaviour is in Spanish public life. The spate of scandals in Mallorca, which now includes the latest tourism minister implicated in the case of a road scheme (always construction, you see), has led to some comment that not only is Balearic administration so riven with corruption it should be given over to central control from Madrid but also that there should be early elections to sort things out. The problems with these suggestions are that you wouldn't necessarily know if you could trust a central control system any more than the local one while early elections might bring back into power the Partido Popular, the party most exposed to corruption charges dating from the past few years.

One is left, I am afraid, to conclude that, rife though corruption is and has been in Mallorca, it is not the only part of Spain to suffer and that perhaps this is all just part of a cultural phenomenon. That seems a facile thing to conclude, but what else is one to make of all these cases? If you can steal from the sun and the wind, you can steal anything.

Mysteries of public provision
A whole series with that title must surely beckon, but let's try this one for starters. I was in Pollensa yesterday. The place was packed. Market day. Weather was very fine. Sun, sun and sun. Lots of tourists, and not only German and Swiss cyclists with their tell-tale Hürzeler accessories. And yet ... Why, on a Sunday of all days, when it's the market and there are quite so many people around, is the tourist office shut? I know Pollensa town hall is broke, but they may as well say to hell with it and pay double time.

Mallorca Top Gear Rally
Officially renamed thus as clearly no-one else took part, despite the best position in the race of the three only being 30th by Jeremy Clarkson. Above is a photo of said presenter/journo together with Ben, and there is a host of photos of Ben and Sara with the Top Gear-ists and other shots at http://picasaweb.google.com/mallorcaben/MallorcaClassicCarRally2009#.

Yesterday's title - Canned Heat (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OrljWGIHB7c). Today's title - and always the wind, too, but not in this song by ...?


Sunday, March 22, 2009

On The Road Again

Arguably, there are no two groups less well liked - among the Brits anyway - than cyclists and the Germans. Which is doubly unfortunate given the fact that most cyclists are Germans. All along the main road they pedal, barking out orders and holding conversations at enormous volume. But this is unfair. Many of my best friends ride bikes, and some of them are even German. However, despite British success on the Olympic cycle track, the British have never really had an affinity with the bike in quite the same way as the Germans have and do. And it shows; shows in terms of the relative numbers of cyclists on Mallorca's spring roads. Locally, these roads are dominated by two-wheeled tourists from Thüringen, invited here by cycling tourism providers such as Max Hürzeler. Springtime for Hürzeler and Germany (and Switzerland).

I was enjoying my morning coffee, flicking through the several pages of the Mallorca Top Gear Rally in "The Bulletin". I beg your pardon, that should be the Mallorca Classic Car Rally: I'd forgotten that there are drivers other than Clarkson, May and Hammond taking part; silly me. I was enjoying that coffee and overhearing a conversation about cyclists and the havoc they create. That's havoc on the roads. Cycling tourists tend not to cause mayhem in bars and late at night, which is part of the problem; cyclists don't go out and spend panniers full of euros on many a pint of foaming ale and vast plates of high cholesterol and chips. They reserve their vandalism, their shocking and anti-social behaviour for the open and not always open road - the latter usually the case in March and April when the stop-go road-work boys are out for a day or several with their signs. These cyclists are tormentors - tarmac tourist terrorists - and economy-class, to boot, which some would like to do.

But this is not me speaking. This is not me saying that these terrorists take the piss. This is not me saying that the road between Puerto Alcúdia and Can Picafort is littered with the dashed hopes of trying to overtake a cyclist and the twisted frames of bikes smashed into by the irrationally irate. No, no, this is not me. Since they lowered the speed limit and built all those obstacles along that road, driving has been turned back several decades. One can take to the wheel and pootle along at a pleasant 30 an hour. Here comes a cyclist. Please, kind sir or madam, do have right of way, do please occupy both lanes of this fine stretch of road, do please cut across my fellow driver and force him to brake suddenly, so that I may shunt him up the arse, so to speak.

I repeat, though, none of this is me speaking. It is someone else. They are someones else. They are the demons of two or four wheels. Every spring. Completely without reason. They shout and they curse. They scream and they bawl.

What the hell does it matter? Relax, and enjoy the ride.

And Jee-ez, Ireland. Triple Crown, Championship and Slam. Was that exciting. Hugo McNeill, professional Irishman, says that sport can sometimes "take you to a different place". Must have meant Gavin's bar. Except of course, Wales didn't win.

Yesterday's title - Tears For Fears. Today's title - high tinned temperature.


Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Big Chair

As threatened, a photo of the deckchair. It does have the look of much of the current vogue in restaurant and terrace furniture, the dark brown lacquered mock wicker style but squared and without the high backs. There again, restaurants tend not to have many deckchairs. The steel works of the sculpture do, though, make a decent enough stab at re-creating this contemporary furniture design, which does make me wonder if it hasn't actually been commissioned by a furniture manufacturer. Perhaps a sponsorship sign will be hung from it. After taking the photo, I was hailed from his shop by Nacho - the tabacs opposite the Burger King at Las Gav. He and his mother just referred to the deckchair as a "silla", i.e. chair, and I thought, ah, now they might know something about the birds nest roundabout (the photo of 11 March, Fat Albert Rotunda). And do you know what? They did. So, would you like to know what that sculpture really is? I can reveal that it is ... eels. Yep, a load of eels. Those twisted strips of metals are those things that repulse so many, my friends, and that is official. No tornadoes, no candy floss, no birds nests. But eels. Eels such as you get in Albufera and such as might be in fisherman's basket. As he pulls it up, all those eels writhing and wriggling. Now I know, now it starts to make sense. Eels. In Sa Pobla, the eel goes into the local speciality, the "espingada", which is a treat (allegedly) at Sant Antoni, but it (the eel) is very much representative of Albufera, and so there you have it. I say that it is representative, but for whom? Locals may know, but does anyone else? I very much doubt it. But for those of you who thought the sculpture was just a mess of bits of metal picked up in a scrap yard and thrown together, how could you have? Philistines.

I failed to mention yesterday that a further way in which Pollensa town hall is seeking to eliminate tourism is with the change to the building rules. I have referred before to the temporary lifting of restrictions, allowing work this year to continue until mid June and during October. What I hadn't appreciated was that, apparently, the Casinet works will be going on right through the summer. That'll be nice, won't it.

Yesterday's title - "Sitting In The Park", Georgie Fame (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_3nNB8D_A1k). Today's title - there was an album called "songs from the big chair", and it was by ... ? Only just had them.


Friday, March 20, 2009

Sitting Here On The Bench

Well, it all seemed to be kicking off in Puerto Pollensa's market square yesterday morning. I say kicking off; that is a bit of an exaggeration. But were it Easter already, there would be some unhappy Easter bunnies among the restaurant and bar owners. It's all to do with how much, or how many. Metres. Metres of terrace. It is not a new story in that restrictions have been anticipated for some while, but a by-law was passed last month which stipulated that terraces could be no deeper than 3.4 metres. Why 3.4 and not 3.5 I don't know, but that - apparently - is how far the tables and chairs of the establishments in the square can stretch. 3.5 metres are not very much, and - from a tourism and business point of view - it sucks; sorry, they suck. The owners can appeal, and have. Just as well; the last day of appeal is 24 March. As far as I am aware, this is just something that applies to the square, though it seems that - buried in the town hall - is a document which shows how far terraces can go, even for places that don't currently have them. Whatever. Anyway, the mayor was there in person, flanked by the local plod, while the traders put forward their case. I can't believe that this will not be challenged and overturned. An argument is that, because the tables stretch right across the pavement, they prevent people from sitting on the benches. Maybe so. In which case, why do they allow the market to take place? It may only be one morning, but the same problem applies. Why not move the benches? If I had to guess, there would be more people, far more people wanting to sit at a table in the square to have a meal on a warm summer's eve than there would be those who want to sit on a bench.

You do wonder at times if town halls would rather just kill off the tourism industry. If they got rid of it, then they would get rid of a number of headaches. Of course, one other development in Puerto Pollensa which, so the spurious argument went, would be a benefit to tourism, was that of the pedestrianisation. It seems like a long time since that was mentioned here, but what I am hearing is that, as far as traffic restrictions are concerned, vehicles will be able to use the whole of the coast road into Puerto Pollensa coming from Alcúdia. What's the point of that? If today is anything to go on, there are vehicles currently coming from the other direction as well. But were the road to be made one-way, it would not be a pedestrianisation, so why bother? This was never about benefits to tourism; it was all about an obscure piece of road legislation dating back to 1967, which appears to have brought ruination to some businesses since the so-called and botched trial was started last autumn. It was always a pointless exercise, and now it seems even more so.

Take it easy - sitting on roundabouts
More on the latest tourist excursion - the island tour of roundabout furniture and art. Further nominations for the birds nest affair in front of the Parc Natural (11 March: Fat Albert Rotunda) include a tornado (if you can actually sculpt a tornado), while the roundabout at what were the traffic lights and junction in Las Gaviotas now boasts something which is quite clearly a deckchair. Actually, it's pretty good in a sort-of contemporary, robust, IKEA or perhaps Paco Muebles deckchair style, as opposed to a Bognor-beach-circa-1965 way. I shall take a photo and you will be able to see for yourselves. I wonder how much it costs to sit on? Perhaps it is an ironic statement regarding the beach wars in Playa de Muro these past few years; those to do with sun beds and so on. Hopefully though, no-one will see fit to slash the sculpture in the dead of night.

The best election
Yes, that is election. Thank God. They could have got the word wrong I guess, rather than just the wrong word. And they are? GC Hotels. I was checking through the Google map that I have done and it seems the link to what were the Almarsa hotels (Estrella de Mar, Coral de Mar etc.) is out of date: it diverts to GC Hotels. The thing is that when you go to that site, you are greeted with a legend which states "The best election". Now, the word "elección" can mean election or selection (choice). Clearly, they have picked the wrong possibility for translation. They shouldn't have. Please, no more of the oh well it's quite funny when foreigners make poor translations excuses. It is not funny. It is downright unprofessional. The hotels of Mallorca are meant to offer quality. And quality should exist in all aspects of their business, including translations. Poor.

Yesterday's title - Daniel Bedingfield (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lxI2DEE_Nco). Today's title - line from a fabulous song from the '60s. Circa 1965 in fact: the British hit was by a well-known George.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

I Can't Read You

"Political turmoil." Thus read the front-page headline of "The Bulletin". What could it have been? Things political seemed to have been relatively quiet in the UK. It turned out to be a local political story - on the front page. And what was/is this turmoil? It involves a minister being implicated in a scandal. That's all you need to know, because this is what mostly all political turmoil stories here have to do with. The story, as such, has been written many times before; the only things that change are the names. The fact also is that you may not be at all interested, and if not, read on ...

The particular minister is the one for tourism. The last time the Balearic Government was rocked by "turmoil", the minister involved was the one for ... tourism. Not the same person, just the same job. The current tourism minister is Miquel Nadal, a name some of you may have taken note of, as it has appeared on the blog before now. I say some of you. It so happened that I was in a bar yesterday morning as the "political turmoil" headline was being read out. It was of course a British bar; you would not get a copy of "The Bulletin" hanging around a Spanish bar. Of the assembled four people (all of whom live here), I asked do you know who the tourism minister is? As in, what's his name? Blanks. Not totally surprising I suppose. But then I tried - who's the president of the Balearic Government? Blanks. Antich, says I. Isn't he a Yugoslavian footballer? Very good. Actually no, because he's now just Serbian, but he was at one time the whole Yugoslavian nine yards. Finally I went for the president (some say prime minister) of Spain. Erm. Well, no. As a specialist subject on "Mastermind", I suggest avoiding Spanish or Mallorcan politics.

This was all quite instructive; at least I thought so. Not only do people - British people - not know who local politicians are, they really don't care. Ok, some do know and do care, but they are, I would submit, in a minority. That same minority would also know about British politicians. The majority might take more of an interest in what's happening with UK politics, but they are more interested still in Jade Goody and the footy.

What was most instructive was what it revealed about the media here, or what the media here can ever mean. Newspapers, British newspapers, appeal to particular demographics. Readers of "The Times" know a lot about British politics; they may not know much about Jade Goody. The reverse applies to readers of "The Sun". So, how do you reconcile these competing demographics and these competing interests through the local media, which amounts to "The Bulletin", freebies and various niche magazines? The answer is that you probably cannot. The market is too small anyway.

And if the political turmoil continues, if it claims another sacked minister, who will care? Not the Brits, that's for sure. For sure, a sample of four people hardly constitutes a quorum, let alone a market research sample. Nevertheless, the story may be written, but it won't be read.

Cloughie and the Damned
Can we just talk a bit about reading of another sort? The Brian Clough novel and film - "The Damned United" - create a bit of an issue here because Clough had a holiday home on the island and there are scenes of Mallorca in the film. I have not read the book. I have not seen the flim. I have heard the arguments though, in particular on Five Live where Pat Murphy played his I-was-a-mate-of-Cloughie's hand (and was not best pleased by the film). But there is this suggestion that David Peace, born in 1967, could not have written a book about events that happened when he was seven. Well, obviously he could have done because he has, and I'm going to defend Peace totally. So what that he would have no personal experience of that time?

There will be much written about this film, not least here because of the Mallorca connection, but maybe it should be taken into account that it was firstly a novel and secondly a film. And novels and films have been known to occasionally play a tad loose with history.

Yesterday's title - Tears For Fears (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EMBbJ_l0Tb4). Today's title - nearly took instead something by his sister about written or, more accurately, unwritten. Who he?


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Head Over Heels

It's some 18 months now since I complained about an encounter with a hole in the street - one near to Alcúdia Pins that, with the lack of street lighting, claimed my ankle and probably had already claimed ankles of others and went on to have other victims, too. I should have taken the matter up with Muro town hall. If it weren't such a bloody schlep to Muro town from Playa de Muro, I probably would have done. At least I didn't exactly fall in it. Some holes are made for falling into. As Gavin has discovered. Gavin, as in Gavin At The Port Gavin. There's a hole, a manhole, in the area of Hidropark, that deserves a blue plaque or something equivalent. It would say: "This is the hole that Gavin fell into". Perhaps it should be "The man who fell into the earth", which would be a bit of a Bowie reference and far too obscure for anyone who normally inhabits the vicinity of Hidropark - so forget that. Coming back to Gavin and his predicament partially underground, he was, fortunately, able to climb out again. Equally fortunately, the manhole cover didn't collide with his anatomy in a way that might have been particularly unpleasant or might have limited the line of ancestry. But I've seen the marks on the legs, and those are enough. He should take it up with Alcúdia town hall, as I should have taken it up with Muro. There may not be as many holes in Alcudia as there are in Pollensa, but they are still numerous. And numerous enough to do a fair deal of damage. In these litigious times when someone cries foul and compensation for the slightest mishap, the town halls might be wise to check their insurance and public liability policies. Get a stroppy tourist, and things could get nasty.

And talking of stroppy. I will not name names, as I did not name names when I could have done, but let me tell you about something surprising that happened yesterday. It was surprising because someone apologised. Saying sorry is hard enough for many people, but the local population struggles more than most.

There are very, very few people with whom I have had a personal problem here. And when I have, it has been because of some totally irrational outburst of rudeness - on behalf of the other party. In fact, I can count the number of occasions and therefore people - three. The last time occurred about this time twelve months ago. A restaurant owner in Puerto Alcúdia lost it. Just lost it. Much as he deserved a smack in the mouth, I walked away. As far as I was concerned, that was the last time we would ever communicate. And then yesterday, I happened to pass by his restaurant. Not only did he break off from talking to the person he was with, he came up to me, shook my hand and said how sorry he was - for an incident that had happened a year ago. He put it down to his being "nervioso", which you can translate in different ways - stressed, anxious, worried.

The point about this is that I could, given what I do with this blog and other things, have told the world about that irrational rudeness. It is where the internet becomes highly tempting and also highly irresponsible. But I chose not to. It did cross my mind, but I soon dismissed any notion of using cyberspace to slag off a restaurant owner and, by implication, his restaurant and, by extension, to hint that people should give his restaurant a miss. I dismissed this notion because ... because why should I? Because it's where the internet is at its worst. I could have, but I didn't. And a year later, the restaurant owner who must have been thinking about this all that time, came up to me and apologised. I had been right; he had been wrong and completely out of order. Sometimes, just keeping quiet is the best course of action.

On thealcudiaguide.com, there is now a Google map of Alcúdia and Playa de Muro. Currently, it shows all the hotels and apartments. More things will be added no doubt. They are a fine thing - Google maps. But they're not without faults. The map of Alcúdia and Playa de Muro has certain roads which don't exist and names that don't exist, or are certainly never used. The Carretera de Marjals. Where's that, do you think? It is in fact the main road that comes out of Muro town going towards Can Picafort. I have never known it to be used to refer to part of the Carretera Artà in Playa de Muro.

Like almost all other maps, the Google map has three roads where three roads no longer exist. Rather, they exist but only as stubs at either end. Most of their lengths have long gone, and the reason why Calles Tord, Merlera and Verderol in Puerto Alcúdia are only bits of road is that there is a ruddy great complex on top of them - a complex called Sea Club. Yet, most maps show these as complete roads, including the Google map. And how often are these maps updated? With all the roundabout construction going on, they need to be done every year.

Yesterday's title - James Blunt, and what's more the youtube has Spanish sub-titles (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ztc4V3ttlso). Today's title - Gavin fell in feet first, but this is a cracking song and band: who?


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

You're Beautiful

Simon Jenkins, chairman of the National Trust as well as a former editor of "The Times", wrote about beauty in this week's Sunday version of the paper - http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article5907426.ece. Beauty as in scenic beauty, that is. Not a Renault style of beauty but that of the natural world. Beauty is something to be avoided; at least, the use of the word is avoided. That's his argument. You wouldn't know it: the adjective from the noun is not avoided hereabouts. It is positively over-used; in brochures especially. While Jenkins claims, rightly to a great extent, that the word beauty "borders on the politically incorrect", there is not the same sense of embarrassment among those who stuff local promotional material with the exaggeration of beauty and beautiful as there may indeed be among those responsible for the "catalogues of beauty" that Jenkins has "combed". Here a landscape, there a restaurant terrace: all is beauty and beautiful.

Though the word may have been proscribed in the UK, it is in the top ten of the thesaurus for the Mallorcan propagandist. So much is beautiful, that it can't all be. There again - in the eye of the beholder and all that. According to polls, states Simon Jenkins, 45% say that "natural surroundings" constitute beauty; 33% views. But there are natural surroundings and there are natural surroundings; there are views and there are views. The nature park of Albufera is natural - the map in "The Bulletin" even said so the other day ("the natural park"). Beautiful? I wouldn't have said so, and I live opposite. The point with Albufera is that it is flat and that there are whole loads of rushes; you can't actually see a great deal in order to determine whether it's beautiful or not. And if you look in the wrong direction, there's a dirty great power station coming into view. Some find beauty in industrial scenes, but industry is not what most would have in mind for Mallorca. The view across the bay of Alcúdia. Beautiful? In the distance, there's the other power station - the old one - that suggests otherwise, and then there is the occasional hulk anchored near to the port.

There's drama and then there is beauty, and I wonder if we don't confuse the two. Up in the mountains of the Tramuntana would be drama, but are the "natural surroundings" and the "views" beautiful? Ruggedness does not beget beauty. Or does it? Do beauty and beautiful always have to be refined, honed, shaped, richly-coloured? Can they be angular, chipped, grey? Jenkins observes that the National Trust opts for "chocolate box" shots for its photographs, and the reason it does is that they are "beautiful". The chocolate box top is saturated in the four-colour system, displays hues of vibrancy and regularity of scene: somewhere like Stourhead in autumn would qualify for the National Trust definition.

In official circles, beauty may be frowned upon, but it is still something that is easy to slip in. "Beautiful" is a default setting for those who peddle brochure talk. I'm wondering if it is possible, just conceivable that a brochure or a website could be written or constructed without beautiful or beauty, or also without pretty, awesome, lovely, wonderful, awe-inspiring, dramatic, perfect, splendid, extraordinary, exquisite ... .

Will the R-word cause the bottom to fall out of the Elvis market? It was once calculated that, at the then rate of growth, by 2019 one third of the world's population would be Elvis impersonators. What this, whatever it was, didn't establish was where most of them would be. I can. Most of them are in Mallorca. Just as well that the Elvii aren't in Las Vegas because it is there that the Elvis market is going arse-up.

Yesterday's title - JoJo (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FY8hl6b54A). Today's title - oh dear, how could I have done this?


Monday, March 16, 2009

Too Little Too Late

This past week has found ministers and other worthies in Berlin for the annual ITB holiday fair. These events are good for ratcheting up the air miles of the tourism minister; they are also important for filling copious amounts of space in newspapers. Each day of the fair is reported on. The views of the secretary of state for tourism and the minister for tourism (and there are two different posts), the president of the Balearics, the head of the hotel association, spokespeople from the tour operators: all of them are quoted. Photos are taken, usually of smiling, contented politicians. According to one smiling politico, the situation this year is expected to be the same as last year. In which case, one wonders why there are reductions in tour operators' offers and in hotel prices, with 11 for 14 deals and so on being available (that is pay for 11 days, stay for 14).

The Balearic Government has decided to spend some more money on promotion. It does seem a bit late to be doing this now, but there again campaigns that were in the pipeline had been scheduled for March: the Rafael Nadal promotion in the UK and one for Manchester were due now rather than earlier. It may seem late to be diverting more funds to advertising the islands and perhaps not enough, but maybe not. There is a fair amount of evidence to suggest that holidaymakers are holding off in the hope of good deals. And they may also be right to do so. Prices at 1993 levels, offers at 12 or 13 euros a day for half board in a three-star establishment. These are the sorts of things one is hearing. Despite this, the secretary of state for tourism can say that things will be like last year, for it was he who came out with it.

Still, at least the tourism minister has been satisfied with the winter season. So good for him, though I wonder how this squares with the views of a restaurant owner in Puerto Alcúdia who reckoned that the February gone had been the worst he could recall. Expressions of satisfaction with what winter tourism there has been makes one wonder if the priority, in terms of promotion, has not shifted too far in the direction of a minority and hoped-for off-season tourism rather than the the bread and butter of the summer sun and beach.

One of the great myths about life here, by comparison with the UK, is that youths and young people are all wonderfully well behaved and don't drink alcohol to excess. Rather they sit around in cafés drinking coffee, discussing philosophy and art. It is complete garbage of course. Recently, there was the vandalism at the Sant Marti grotto in Alcúdia, then we hear that trees in Santa Margalida have been uprooted. And now people in the town of Muro are getting hacked off with the noise and mess from the regular "botellón" (street drinking party), something that Alcúdia tackled by passing a by-law to ban any drinking of alcohol in the street. All this anxiety about binge drinking in the UK, references to European café society and how civilised things are here by comparison especially in respect of attitudes to drinking ... And whoever comes out with this guff simply has no idea. It may not be as bad as the UK, but let's not keep trotting out this naïve view of supposedly idyllic Mediterranean living.

Yesterday's title - The Carpenters (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6inwzOooXRU). Today's title - something of a prodigy; she still hasn't reached 20.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Close To You

Catching up on the train saga, my indignation with the "fool's economy" having got in the way of my following it up yesterday ... . The Alcúdia politicos, of differing colours and ideologies, have grouped together to push - again - for an alternative route to that preferred by the Balearic Government's department of mobility and, it should be said, the environmental group GOB. Mayor Ferrer is arguing for the siting of the station to be in Puerto Alcúdia and not in the town of Alcúdia. Those who are in favour of the so-called "southern option", included among whose number are many Alcúdia politicians and the mayor of Muro, had originally proposed that the station be sited by the Es Foguero ruin, but now there seems to be as much of a lobby for it to go by one of the main roundabouts - the Horse or Magic. I apologise for repetition. We have been here several times before, but there are always people coming to this anew, so I have to give a bit of background.

One of the reasons why the government wants the northern option, which would see the station in the town behind the auditorium, is - so it is argued - that this would be closer to a greater centre of population. The opposing view, that being pressed by the mayor, is that a station by, say, the Magic roundabout would in fact be better - to the tune of some 25,000 people or so more people better. This is the number of tourists who, it is said, would benefit from a station a couple of kilometres away from where the government wants it go. It sounds a sensible argument, but is it? Does it really make any difference to tourists where the damn station is? If it's in Alcúdia, wherever in Alcúdia, it would be good enough. And how many would actually use the train, or indeed could use the train? This is not a rail system capable of transporting huge numbers of people, while the most obvious connection for tourists - to the airport - does not exist and is not planned. Other than the fact that the train would be useful, the tourism argument is, frankly, spurious, except also for the fact that financing is linked to tourism. But I make the point again; it hardly matters, to tourists, whether the station is in the old town, by the Magic roundabout or by Es Foguero.

What one has here is a clear case of local versus central conflict. Alcúdia council has been pissed off by the whole train issue because the government did not consult enough, or so it is said. One does also detect the influence of GOB in all this, and it wouldn't be the first time. There does appear to be a degree of closeness between GOB and the mobility department; I have referred to it before in connection with the road plans in Palma and the conversion of the Son Bosc finca in Muro. Such conflict 'twas ever thus. But the more this all drags on, the more the chances of someone having second thoughts and scrapping the whole project - and the way it's going, you wouldn't bet against this. Oh, and we now find that the sensible part of the whole thing - running the track alongside the main road from Sa Pobla isn't sensible; indeed it is unsafe, or so says some authority in Madrid. That'll be unsafe as in rail lines parallel to roads in England, Germany and Holland. It's never going to be built is it.

Incidentally, on a map in "The Bulletin" which shows the proposed routes, there is reference to "The Albufera Natural Park in Alcúdia". What is wrong with this? Apart from "nature park" being preferable, in which municipality is Albufera? The answer is that it is not in Alcúdia. It is in Muro. Poor old Muro. As ever, it is confused with Alcúdia. Maybe they should just merge it with Alcúdia and have done with it.

And while on Albufera, a follow-up on Albufereta, the "little" Albufera that lies by the coast road between Alcúdia and Puerto Pollensa. I mentioned the other day that there is alleged to be a bit of an E. coli problem there. Driving past a couple of days ago, I noticed that someone had helpfully covered a sign with a sheet of paper with "contaminada" written on it. Well, it was there; probably isn't now. (Actually, it is; I checked this morning.)

Yesterday's title - Stone Roses (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k4bHMVAKDao). Today's title - Homer and Madge's song.


Saturday, March 14, 2009

Fools Gold

Where is the "cr-eee-sis" greater or greatest, or at its most cr-eee-sis-itic? I'm thinking of starting a local league table, though the higher the score, the greater the cr-eee-sis and likewise the number of points: The Mile 4 Can Picafort 4, as opposed to Pollensa Old Town 1 Cala San Vicente 6. Or something like that. But maybe I've got it all wrong. The Chinese in the old town of Pollensa was full of talk of cr-eee-sis. "Mucha cr-eee-sis, mucha cr-eee-sis." A sort of China cr-eee-sis, ho ho. And whatever happened to them?

In these days of shortage, the cr-eee-sis takes different forms, one of them being that businesses look to cut back, and we all know those areas that they cut - training, advertising, research. The counter argument is that in bad times you do the opposite. There is a free newspaper here, some of you will know it. This week's issue features a piece, an "advertising feature" (advertorial, as it is sometimes known) which stresses the fact that the advertiser - writing the piece - is spending a bundle even in these difficult days. It goes on to say that reducing advertising spend in the circumstances in which many of us find ourselves today is a "fool's economy". In which case, there are a lot of fools around, I suspect. But fool would not be a word I would use.

This is unfair; this article in this paper. The advertiser has indeed taken a lot of space. Good for him, or them. It will probably be very successful. Indeed it should be. A flood of advertising is basically how you do it. You may as well not bother advertising, as just do it once. It doesn't really get you anywhere. Splash it around, do it as much as possible. There are businesses that have become successful solely on the basis of advertising. I can tell you about an estate agency that did just that. From nothing to market leader, thanks to advertising; well, in the good times anyway. Look, it works. The guy who has written this article is right, but to imply that people who don't are fools? I don't think so. People aren't fools. They know that they have to promote: it is a basic of any business. The issue is not that they don't know; it's whether they can.

This is why it's unfair. Here is a free newspaper, which of course relies on advertising, using a major advertiser to hector other potential, existing or lapsed advertisers. It's kind of hard sell via editorial.

I know a number of the businesses that act as distribution points for this paper. I'll tell you about one. Or I could tell you, but I won't, because I resolved that I wasn't going to do the economy-misery stuff here, and because I don't want to talk about the cost of the rent of the house, the cost of the rent of the bar, the cost of the staff (now let go because of the cost), the cost of the child, the cost of the electricity ... . I agree with the author in the free newspaper. He is right. But fools? No, my friend, not fools. Never, ever, fools. And please don't insult them as such.

Yesterday's title - Perry Como (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5zarGeHKNU). Today's title - how come is it that this is the first time they have been mentioned here - Manchester-ists.


Friday, March 13, 2009

Memories We've Been Sharing

What's in a name, as in a bar or restaurant name, or even a sandwich bar name? I bring this up as in front of me I have a card for Sandwich and Moments. This is a sandwich place by the yacht club roundabout in Puerto Pollensa, and "sandwich place" may actually be instructive. What is a moment in the context of a sandwich? The card does say that if you call them, they will prepare your moment. Which is extremely good of them, but what on earth does it mean? Does one really have a sandwich moment, a somewhat orgasmic occurrence or something, the consequence of roast loin in a baguette, or how does it work? "Oooh, ooh, I'm having a sandwich moment." I've got to say that I'm struggling with this one. Anyway, whatever it means, I'm sure that it's very good, and so are the sandwiches which, incidentally, seem all to be named after names, as in male or female names. But I am rather uncertain about "roast beef and cheese to the thin grasses (herbs)", which goes under the title of "dudu". Anyway, bon appetit or bon profit, as they say here, and enjoy your moment.

This is all a roundabout way of getting to names, and how effective they can be, or not. Sandwich place is, I feel, instructive, because my guess is that few people say "oh, let's go to Sandwich and Moments" but do in fact say "oh, let's go to the sandwich place", which may be why sandwich places have, in the past, been called The Sandwich Place. It's not, incidentally, as though the name is particularly meaningful for Spaniards either. There are, it seems to me, types of establishment that, regardless of what name is used, are known by a generic, and to the sandwich place, one can add Indian and Chinese restaurants and even the likes of tex-mex. Who actually calls Dakota, Dakota? It's always the tex-mex in rather sneering tones. To back up what I'm saying about Chinese places, there has been an exchange on the puertopollensa.com forum about the Chinese next to Sandwich and Moments - maybe it's something about that particular roundabout. In that exchange, the actual name has not been used, unless I've overlooked it. It is in fact Luna de Miel, but the name itself is largely beside the point. Further evidence of this lack of name recognition comes in the form, for example, of mentions of Taste of India off The Mile; it is only ever referred to, on the internet anyway, as the Indian, as it was when it was previously Agra.

How important are names, the names of restaurants or bars, or indeed sandwich places? (See, I can't stop using sandwich "place".) I can feel a series coming on. Are local or international names preferable? Are name changes always desirable, as in when a new owner takes over? Is enough attention paid to any implications for different nationalities in terms of names used? So, watch this space. I'm sure you can't wait.

A name that has a good deal of currency, certainly in the boating world, is Fairline. Given something of an interest in the boat fair that takes place in Puerto Alcúdia at the start of April, I had a chat with the Fairline folk yesterday, and found out that there will be a Fairline as it were fair of its own the weekend following that of the boat fair, i.e. 10-12 April. So, there you are. Dates for your diary. Boat (and cuttlefish) fair, 4-5 April; Fairline, a week later - in the Alcudiamar marina.

And ever more about the train
There we were thinking that the route of the train from Sa Pobla and the location of the station in Alcúdia was getting towards some settlement, when along comes a pact of Alcúdia local politicos - the mayor and the main opposition - to present a case against the siting in the town itself, with a preference by the Linkin' Donuts Roundabout, otherwise known as the Magic Roundabout. Apparently the location in the town would ago against some plan or other, while a station in the port would be far better for tourists. The argument goes that the main reason for financial support for the train extension is that it would be as a further aid to tourism. Anyway, more on this tomorrow I think, as there are all sorts of figures which may or may not be of interest.

Yesterday's title - Who else would give you a steam engine live? The Thompson Twins (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0y_91nGEDYw). Today's title - a line from a 1957 song about "moments". If it doesn't get better than Lily Allen now, it didn't get better than (whom) back then. Not that I personally remember, I would just add.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

This Is Where We All Fall Out

So the fallout from the fall - that of the workers at the Can Ramis redevelopment in Alcúdia. Must have been an added bonus for those attending the market - all that excitement, though admittedly not what might have been anticipated, least of all by those who have been injured. Anyway, the theories as to why the second storey of the structure collapsed include insufficient or weak support and excessive vibrations. The constructors say that the support was ok, but it would seem that concrete was being applied to the second level while the lower one was only of wooden beams. Of those working on the building, including the injured, the view is that there appeared not to be any problems. Whatever the situation, the mayor of Alcúdia, Miquel Ferrer, put his finger on it: "es evidente que alguna cosa no ha ido bien". It's this sort of insight that gets you into positions of authority in local politics. I suspect most of you can work this out for yourselves, but just in case you can't - "it's clear that something has not gone right" (or "was not right").

Of course something has not been right with the Can Ramis redevelopment for quite some while, like since it first started. Jinxed is perhaps a diplomatic way of putting it (and the word was used in a report in "The Diario"). That'll be jinxed as in bankruptcy, budgetary miscalculation and certification irregularities. This time last year, the building site had no structure on it and was not being worked on, and yet the surrounding area, the square, had been newly laid, taking up the budgeted amount with it; the town hall had, therefore, to find another million or so euros to hand to another firm to complete the whole project after the original one had gone bust - having spent the original budget. The whole thing was set in motion back in August 2006 and the time for the project to be completed was set at eleven months and three weeks, which sounds suspiciously close to being one year. But it wasn't completed either within eleven months and three weeks or one year.

There was some talk, quite recently, that the whole thing would be finished by July or August this year, so three years after the award of the project was made. Anyone who has seen the work in progress as it is, or was until it collapsed, would have doubted that this would be the case. Presumably it is even less likely now, and so we will have to wait a while longer to enjoy another tourist office, another café and somewhere to sit when waiting for a bus. However, there was some work going on yesterday, underneath the hole that has appeared in the second level. The sadness is that this whole project, the knocking down of the old Can Ramis houses and the creation of something new, was meant to be a prestigious development for Alcúdia but it has been a mess from more or less the word go.

The thing was that I was driving towards the roundabout coming from Can Picafort at about half four in the afternoon. What's that floodlight, I thought. As I got closer, I realised that the bright light was no floodlight, just the sun reflecting off of the Robert Smith, some say birds nest, some say God knows what. Maybe that's the idea. That the sun reflects. Artistically, the changing angle of the sun through the day and through the seasons, as bounced off the streamers of the what the hell is it would be a kind of performance of nature in art. The only problem is ... that reflection ... at certain angles ... as in right in your eyes, when you're driving. Twisted streamers of metal - the sun jumps off of them, vibrant, white, dazzling - deadly.

May I just thank John for drawing my attention to César Manrique and Lanzarote roundabout art. For those who don't know, just Google him and see for yourselves and the degree to which he, through his art and his thinking, influenced the tourism landscape (both physical and mental) of Lanzarote. Quite striking, it must be said. More so than Mallorca's, which is striking only in the sense of the reflection of the sun blinding you and your going up the arse of the driver ahead - not literally of course, but metaphorically and metallically.

Yesterday's title - Herbie Hancock. Today's title - this was not a previous title but I have youtubed it before. No apologies for repetition; this is so damned good, and they were so damned good live. Clue as before: Hergé. Oh and of course Matthew Parris caused a bit of a kerfuffle when he suggested that Tintin was gay.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Fat Albert Rotunda

When the historians of bloggery come to assess the role of this blog in that bloggery world, they will point to certain themes that have been as faithful companions since the early days, crawling from the cradle of blogger.com to be unleashed onto a wholly unexpecting public. One such is and has been the roundabout. The roundabout as in - can you or I make any sense as to how one is meant to negotiate it by means of a four-wheeled vehicle? - or as in - can you or I make any sense of the stuff that grows from the centre of the roundabout? The roundabout furniture. The adornments of roundabouts. Ars rotonda. Rotonda profunda. The meaning of roundabouts. I have an idea for No Frills, and I shall be mentioning it to Seamus when I next leave him stranded at a meeting in the town hall - conducted in Catalan - and that is a tour of the island's roundabouts with accompanying DVD for the aficionado of the roundabout art, Die Kunst des Kreisverkehrs, to take home to his relevant country and amaze and indeed bore friends and family. I actually don't think it's as stupid an idea as it sounds. Mallorca seems to have given the world roundabout aesthetics, or maybe everywhere else offers similar artistic treasures, it's just that I don't get out much. The twisted metals and carved blocks of stone of traffic circulation management are facets of that Mallorcan culture of which we hear so much; they are a heritage to European art, Victoria & Albert museum pieces for a future Tate Modern roundabout design museum. Isn't the old power station in Alcúdia meant to be modelled on the Tate Modern and to be art as well as science? Roundabouts, and their creations, should form the centrepiece.

I once had an email from someone who was doing a school project who desperately needed to know who was responsible for the most hideous of local roundabout art - the Horse (some say chicken or prawn) - and for what Foxes' Jamie dubs "Linkin' Donuts", i.e. the Magic of the Magic roundabout - boing! I did actually know the answer, though I seem now to have mislaid the information, for which I apologise as you are probably all keen to know as well. The point was that the artistic merits of the local roundabout had found expression away from this island. To foreign lands has travelled news of the strange craft of the Mallorcan roundabout. And to all the most famous - the Horse, the rings, the cock of Pollensa, the Canadair of Puerto Pollensa, the basket of Inca - we must now add the "what the hell's that meant to be" in front of the Parc Natural hotel (depicted above). I call it - "Rotonda Flagellens" or "Glorieta Gloriole", the gloriole coming from the suggestion perhaps of the metal straps as kinds of halos. Or are they streamers? If the Magic sculpture is donuts, perhaps this one's a candy floss. Maybe it is an example of a local hairdresser's skill - birds-nested hair - a Robert Smith of the Albufera roundabout. That could be it - the Cure to the answer as to what it is - a birds nest. Don't be fooled, by the way, by the pole in the photo - that's a lamp-post and not part of the roundabout. In other words, it's a lousy photo. It could also be that the artwork is not finished, though I have a suspicion it is, in which case - what is it? Answers, as ever, to the address below. I quite like the Robert Smith Roundabout. It has a ring to it. But then most roundabouts are like rings, or have rings on them, like the linkin' donuts. I still feel though that, as roundabouts are built primarily as places for the traffic plod to hang about on, there should be a sculpture of a cop, arm raised with a "papeles" balloon coming from his mouth. Like a sort of Angel of the North. It would be the highlight of the Roundabout Tour, the day of doing the rounds of roundabouts, a circular excursion of art on the round traffic islands of the island. Well, I'd pay for it even if you wouldn't.

Note: the Spanish for roundabout can be "rotonda" or "glorieta".

The collapse of the second level of the building work at the Can Ramis redevelopment has left five workers injured, one seriously. The redevelopment, which will create a bus station, café and tourist office, has been plagued by delay and has now been hit by another problem. And this comes three months after the accident in Cala Ratjada when four workers were killed as the result of a hotel collapsing. More on this to come no doubt.

Yesterday's title - Lily Allen (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q-wGMlSuX_c). Today's title - should have looked for a connection with The Cure, given Robert Smith, but this was an album by which great jazz pianist?


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Taken Over By The Fear

Right, continuing from yesterday. Why was this study of anything more than passing interest, if indeed that? The answer lies with the holiday-let regulations and the get-tough attitude of the Balearic Government and part of the reason why they have got tough. This goes back over the years but especially to around about this time a year back when there was the announcement about trawling the internet and examining websites to find illicit holiday lets. Although there are perfectly good reasons for the government doing so in respect of matters such as safety, quality and payment of tax, there is the added dimension that it (the government) is being badgered by the hoteliers to, if not stamp out, then do what it can do to reduce the volume of so-called residential tourism. The hoteliers, and indeed the government, have made play of the future of Mallorcan tourism being based on quality hotel stock; holiday lets do not come into this, or at least they are ignored when it comes to the grand plan for Mallorca and the promotion thereof - whatever that grand plan is.

The hoteliers' argument has long been that private rental accommodation is not subject to the same scrutiny as the hotels are, and one can have some sympathy with them. Consequently, when a survey comes along, such as the one I referred to yesterday, which estimates that only 16% of tourists go to holiday lets, then the hoteliers are going to challenge that figure, and challenge it with one that they have produced before, namely that half of the number of tourists who arrive in Mallorca end up in some form of residential tourism accommodation as opposed to a hotel. There is, as you can see, a fairly wide discrepancy between the two figures, with the government adopting something of a compromise position at 30%.

Instinctively, one feels that the hotels are overstating the case. Yet, it does rather depend. Take somewhere like Can Picafort, with every available inch of land seemingly occupied by a hotel, and you would say that the hoteliers are talking rubbish. But then compare this with Pollensa, and that 50% figure is probably about right; in fact I am pretty sure I recall seeing some statistics which did make the hotel-private let split at this sort of level. The report on this survey from "The Diario" made no mention of the fact that Pollensa would appear to be the place most people would choose for non-hotel accommodation. That came from "The Bulletin" and from the same survey of passengers at the airport.

The survey does not of course serve the hoteliers' case well. If the percentage is indeed only 16%, then this would undermine to some extent the whole argument against the private-rental sector, so that is why the survey was interesting. Of course, one can never be sure with these things. The sample was 1300, which may be considered robust, but otherwise I don't know the methodology and cannot comment further as to whether it proves anything. The academic in charge of the survey makes the point that those who opt for the holiday-home-type vacation tend to stay longer and to spend more. This is not a new finding, but it reinforces the fact that Mallorca does have to find a way of balancing the different types of accommodation. Too often one feels that the private-let sector is being hounded, but without it the island would miss out significantly. Not everyone wants to stay in hotels, however good they might be. It is nonsense for assertions to be made that the future of the island's tourism is down just to the hotels, because it most certainly should not be.

Are the hotels just very afraid? Right now, you would think they and everyone should be, or would be. Not so. All this talk of "crisis", or "cr-eee-sis" to give it the Spanish pronunciation (sort of), is partly just that - talk. Things are not easy. Of course they're not. But I am heartened by the degree of optimism that I encounter. There was even some yesterday from an estate agent. And I won't say which one. Erik. In the old town of Alcúdia, there was plenty to make you feel upbeat; not least a look inside the latest interior hotel - Can Pere. How pretty is that? Remarkable what can be done with an old town house (and not a manor house as they have it, but let's not quibble). Take a look here - http://www.hotelcanpere.com/.

Yesterday's title - The Beach Boys (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7cTIYsvJOQk). Today's title - no, not everyone has been. As for this song? Does it get much better than this? Not really.